What’s new

Free article: Improving teacher recruitment and retention: part 1 Free article: Get ready to win strategic school improvement funding Reputation management for schools Experience shared: Effective mentoring Tackling bullying in schools - part one Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others Managing difficult conversations The art of influence: Creating the best outcome Change management and conflict Managing anxiety at work Interpreting data for 2017 performance Free article: Know your strengths Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Free article: Governors: The competency framework Free article: HR and the successful school: A case study Free article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Free article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Free article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Free article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Free article: Transforming a failing school Free article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Free article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Free article: Managing uncertainty Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Free article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Free article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Free article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Free article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Free article: The governing body as a critical friend Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Free article: The exam post-mortem Free article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Free article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Free article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Free article: Baseline assessment and SEND Free article: Deconstructing the link between SEND and poverty Free article: Making performance management count in school improvement Free article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Free article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Free article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Free article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Free article: Headteachers’ appraisal Free article: Making CPD work harder Free article: Using the Framework for governance Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Free article: The government's Prevent guidance Free article: Improving provision for the most able Free article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Free article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Free article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Free article: Actively promoting fundamental British values Free article: Raising boys’ achievement Free article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Free article: Governors and the inspection interview Free article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Free article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Free article: Challenging 
the most able Free article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Free article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Free article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Free article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Free article: Four steps to school improvement Free article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Free article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Free article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Free article: Getting personal  with CPD Free article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Free article: Parent View — an update Free article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Free article: Effective parental engagement

Free article: Improving teacher recruitment and retention: part 1

In the first part of a two-part article, Matt Bromley looks at ways to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Free article: Get ready to win strategic school improvement funding

How do you make a successful bid for a slice of the government’s Strategic School Improvement Fund? Best Practice Network’s Liam Donnison asks two school leaders who have done so…

Reputation management for schools

PLMR’s Sam Dalton talks about how schools can manage reputational impact when a crisis hits.

Experience shared: Effective mentoring

Steve Burnage explores the professional development potential of a productive and focused mentoring relationship from the perspective of the mentor.

Tackling bullying in schools - part one

Bullying is defined as: ‘Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’. This article looks at the…

Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others

Conflict management is a vital skill for managers. Schools have clear policies on managing aggression in the classroom and playground. In this article Louise Wingrove looks at dealing with it…

Managing difficult conversations

Some conversations are always going to be uncomfortable. In this article, Louise Wingrove looks at managing difficult subjects with care and confidence.

The art of influence: Creating the best outcome

Louise Wingrove looks at how being aware of your impact on others can help everybody get what they need.

Change management and conflict

Nazli Hussein looks at the causes of conflict and the best ways to deal with it, with the best outcomes for those involved.

Managing anxiety at work

With growing awareness about anxiety and the impact it can have on both pupils and members of staff, Louis Wingrove looks at some ways to tackle the problem in the…

Interpreting data for 2017 performance

Tony Powell looks at the three different ways that a school’s academic performance is evaluated.

Free article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Free article: Governors: The competency framework

Tony Powell looks at the changes to governance in the DfE publication A competency framework for governance.

Free article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Free article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Free article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Free article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Free article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Free article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Free article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Free article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Free article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Free article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Free article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Free article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Free article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Free article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Free article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Free article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Free article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Free article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Free article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Free article: Deconstructing the link between SEND and poverty

DfE statistics show a clear link between SEND and children living in poverty. Suzanne O’Connell outlines some of the reasons for this, and recommendations for action, in a Joseph Rowntree…

Free article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Free article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Free article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Free article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Free article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Free article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Free article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Free article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Free article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Free article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Free article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Free article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Free article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Free article: Actively promoting fundamental British values

Tony Powell advises on how schools can demonstrate that they are actively promoting fundamental British values.

Free article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Free article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Free article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Free article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Free article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Free article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Free article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Free article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Free article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Free article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Free article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Free article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Free article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Free article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Free article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Free article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Free article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Free article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Free article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Published: Monday, 16 January 2017

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Summary

  • When using pupil voice as an evaluation technique, this should be included in the evaluation, improvement and performance management cycle.
  • In order to avoid staff feeling threatened, schools should build in procedures to ensure that pupil feedback does not refer to individual members of staff and is unbiased.
  • Pupils can give feedback on: their experience of attending the school and satisfaction with the school; how much progress they think they are making; whether they face any problems at school and the extent to which they feel they are fulfilling their potential.
  • Schools should formalise ways of seeking the views of pupils in order to identify strengths and areas for development.

Informal and formal discussions with pupils are an integral part of any inspection. Almost every report contains a quote from a pupil about some aspect of the school, and this is usually positive. In fact, the inspection handbook, in the section on grading the overall effectiveness of the school, asks inspectors to: ‘evaluate what it is like to be a pupil in the school’. 

However, most inspections are very short and there is limited time to gather the views of pupils. In the worst-case scenario, schools report that this can mean that undue emphasis is given to an isolated comment.

Schools, on the other hand, talk to pupils all the time; if this evidence is formalised, it is a rich source of insight into what is happening in the school and the reality for pupils. This article provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation. If you decide to use pupil voice as an evaluation technique, don’t forget to include this in the evaluation, improvement and performance management cycle.

Discussion with pupils – why bother?

Talking to pupils and acting upon their views can be contentious because some staff might feel threatened. For example, they may feel that some pupils will take the opportunity to criticise staff unfairly. Senior leaders must recognise these concerns and spend some time discussing the advantages as well as the dangers, and building in procedures which ensure that information is accurate and unbiased. For example, it is very straightforward to tell pupils that they must not refer to an individual member of staff.

However, staff must recognise that pupils are the main stakeholders in any school. If self-evaluation is to determine whether achievement is high enough and whether pupils are making good progress, the most direct source of evidence is the pupils themselves. All pupils can engage in discussion, appropriate to their age, about how hard they are working, whether they understand their work and, indirectly, the quality of teaching.

Teaching staff and other adults in schools talk with pupils all the time in a variety of settings, in formal and informal contexts. This gives valuable evidence about:

  • the pupils’ experience of attending the school
  • pupils’ satisfaction with the school
  • how much progress pupils think they are making
  • whether pupils face any problems at school and what is done to resolve these
  • what pupils know, understand and can do, and the extent to which they feel they are fulfilling their potential.

However, this range of perspectives is not always brought together to evaluate the pupil experience. Schools need to formalise ways of seeking the views of pupils in order to identify strengths and areas for development, and also to give pupils a voice and enable them to make a greater contribution to the work of the school. Through staff and pupil discussion, extend the list above so that it contains all the aspects the school wishes to explore through pupil discussion.

Pupil voice is particularly important when judging achievement as opposed to attainment, because achievement is based on capability. Discussion allows schools to test what pupils have learned (the progress they have made so far) against their capacity to learn, their understanding and their ability as learners. If pupils are capable of far more, for example if they express the view that they are not sufficiently challenged, then expectations are too low.

Informal discussion

Informal discussion is a good way of developing a focus for more formal investigation and evaluation. Even general questions about likes and dislikes can lead naturally into aspects of the school’s work which pupils are concerned about. The emphasis should be on listening and allowing pupils to determine their agenda. This has the added advantage that listening to pupils will strengthen relationships and pupils will feel more valued. Note that even though these discussions are informal, staff should still take notes of the important points. They should:

  • Talk to as wide a range of pupils as possible in informal situations, such as arriving and leaving school, in the playground and over lunch.
  • Ask about what is appropriate to the situation, e.g. how pupils travel to school, what sort of food they like for lunch and whether they can suggest any improvements the school could make.
  • Talk to pupils of different ages and levels of attainment and give equal importance to the views of all.
  • Try to include pupils from the different groups represented in the school, for example, pupils with special educational needs, members of the school council, and the high achievers. 

Remember that pupils’ views provide useful evidence on aspects of the school, but their views should be tested against each other and through other evidence.

Discussion in lessons

If lesson observations are to include discussions with pupils, staff should be consulted and the parameters of any discussions made clear. The focus should be on pupil learning rather than inviting their judgements on any particular teacher. Nevertheless, this will inevitably provide evidence on the quality of teaching.

Take every opportunity, when observing lessons, to talk to pupils about their work. Ask probing, open questions to discover the depth of pupils’ understanding, for example:

  • What are the lesson objectives?
  • What were the teacher’s instructions for this work?
  • How does this link with your earlier work?

Find out how much they are enthused and motivated by the teaching without asking direct questions about teachers, for example:

  • Is teaching always like this in the lesson observed, or does it vary?
  • Do you do lots of group work?
  • How often do you use computers?

Talk to pupils about the work in their books and on display. For example, open a pupil’s book to the first page and ask them to describe what they did at that point. Ask:

  • Is any of your work on display?
  • Do you like your work being displayed?

Ask who is the best mathematician/scientist/historian in the class and how they know. Talk to these pupils and try to gauge the standards being achieved by the most able.

Establish how secure pupils’ progress is by asking if they understand what they are doing, and why they are doing it. Ask:

  • Are you capable of doing more?
  • Have you learned about this before?

Test pupils with slightly harder calculations or invite scientific predictions, for example:

  • You have done this… What would happen if we did that?

Find out just how much pupils know and understand and what they can do, and judge whether the work they undertake in lessons takes them on far enough and fast enough.

In relation to marking and assessment, ask pupils:

  • Do you know how well you are doing? Do you know how you might improve?
  • Are you set targets?
  • Is your work marked regularly and is the marking helpful?

In relation to homework, ask:

  • Is it set regularly?
  • How much?
  • What kinds of tasks are set?
  • What happens if you don’t do it?

Discussion combined with work scrutiny

Scrutiny of work is one of the most common and most powerful evaluation techniques used by schools.

Typically, a subject leader or member/s of the leadership team collect a range of pupils’ work in order to evaluate aspects of teaching and learning, such as assessment and marking. This can be extended and enriched by discussing the work with the pupils themselves. They can either be asked to bring the work with them or the work can be collected in advance and questions prepared before the pupils arrive.

This approach forces schools to think more carefully about which pupils to choose and the range of work that can be studied. For example, you might consider:

  • Is it more appropriate to invite pupils from across the ability range, or focus on pupils of similar abilities, such as high-attainers or those with special needs?
  • Are there some subjects, such as art, which we do not normally examine, which this approach of talking to pupils about their work allows us to evaluate in this way?
  • What do we want to know about?
  • What sort of questions should we ask?

Formal discussions

Plan discussions with groups of pupils to find out their views on how the school provides for their academic and personal development, and the extent of their contribution to planning for its development.

For the protection of both parties, always talk to groups of pupils in an open environment.

The checklists in the Toolkit looks at some of the areas that inspectors explore when they are holding discussions with pupils.

Toolkit

Use the following items in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the articles into practice:

About the author

Tony Powell is an experienced Additional Inspector and LA adviser. He writes extensively on education management, but his main work is in supporting schools to develop systems for self-evaluation, school improvement and continuing professional development. Tony can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Most frequently read